At the annual RSA Security conference, held last week in San Francisco, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, delivered a keynote address in which he outlined Microsoft's plans to improve product security.
He said that Microsoft was working on future enhancements for safer Web browsing, which included plans for a new version of Internet Explorer (version 7.0) for Windows XP SP2 customers, and the inclusion of anti-spyware technologies at no extra cost for registered Windows users.
"We have looked hard at the nature of these problems and have made the decision that this anti-spyware product will be available at no additional cost to Windows users," Gates adds. "I am very excited that we have this technology, and it really addresses a burning need for our users."
In addition to its free consumer product, Microsoft will offer a pay-for Anti-Spyware product for corporate users, which will support enterprise needs for management and deployment, according to Amy Roberts, a director in Microsoft's Security Business and Technology Unit. Roberts could not say when the enterprise Anti-Spyware product would be available.
A second beta version of the consumer Windows Anti-Spyware product is scheduled to be available in the first half of this year, Roberts says.
A beta version of IE 7 should be available in the middle of the year, Gates adds, and promises that it will offer improved protection against malware, phishing and spyware.
Gates also spoke about Microsoft's efforts to simplify software updates to promote a culture of keeping software updated. Currently, Microsoft has a number of different update sites, which are dedicated to the various applications in its stable. Users are often under the misconception that doing a Windows update will automatically update MS Office (for example) as well, but, in fact, there is a separate update site altogether for Office (officeupdate.com).
In his keynote, Gates also updated attendees on Microsoft's efforts to build a single Web site for patches for Microsoft products. A test version of the delayed patching service, dubbed Microsoft Update, is slated to be available next month, Gates says.
Microsoft Update will support Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, Office 2003, Exchange Server 2003 and SQL Server. A final version of the update service is due in the first half of this year. At around the same time, the company plans to release Windows Update Services (WUS), Roberts says. WUS is a free Windows Server add-on for businesses that allows users to download and deploy patches.
On the issue of anti-virus protection, Gates expanded on the company's recently-announced plans to acquire Sybari Software.
He notes that, when the acquisition is closed, Microsoft intends shipping a scanning engine, based on the GeCAD technology acquired in 2003, as one of the multiple scanning engines supported by Sybari's flagship Antigen software product. It is intended that this will be integrated into a broad customer offering by the end of the year.
In a press release issued about Microsoft Press Pass, the company also announced the release to manufacturing of Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004 Enterprise Edition, with general availability to customers expected in March.
For customers using Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 for event and performance management of Windows Server System, Microsoft also announced the immediate availability of the Microsoft ISA Server Management Pack for MOM 2005.
"Security remains a top priority for Microsoft. Technology's full potential can be realised only when customers are able to securely deploy solutions, and the entire community works in partnership to foil attacks by hackers and criminals," Gates concludes.